I love doodles, illustrations, graffiti and I love stationery. And hence, discovering Yellow Buffalo on Twitter was a pure delight – for their art, the awesome merchandise and the endearing tweets! A few email exchanges later, I discovered how doodles made during a boring Math class transformed into the Yellow Buffalo that many of us have now come to love.
Avantika Agarwal started drawing in school, and with a painter mom, art was never too far from home. Before she knew it, she had been doodling for years. So how did the idea of merchandising her drawings finally come about? “It came from my mother-in-law who saw me spending hours hunched over my sketch book, drawing and doodling. She thought it was unfair that I didn’t take advantage of it” says Avantika. A year later, Yellow Buffalo was born.
The Yellow Buffalo team is lean. “My team primarily consists of the husband who handles everything but the creative aspect of Yellow Buffalo and of course, me. He’s my Marketing, IT and Sales departments and I’m the Creative department in entirety. But there are always friends and family available for any help that I might need.”
Fun as it may sound, the printing and merchandising business has its own challenges. Avantika explains, “I had a very specific idea in my head regards the quality of the finished product. Also since all the designs are hand drawn, the printing had to be of a very high caliber to allow for the detailing that makes up the doodles. Finding someone to do that for me, at a rate that would be affordable for stationery lovers was definitely my biggest challenge.”
What kept her going was the confidence in her art and a husband who nudged her to stick it out. Avantika adds “My biggest strength was that my designs/style of artwork is not something seen before. This gave me the confidence to take my drawings from my sketch books to store shelves. And at the risk of sounding clichéd, the husband has been monumental in making Yellow Buffalo what it is, simply by ensuring I remained on track and got work done on time and by being the dreamer to my realist.”
Starting out is tough, and sustaining a business is tougher. What is your biggest fear?
I have only one fear – my Attention Deficit Disorder would get in the way of everything. I am scared that Yellow Buffalo would turn out to be another half-finished project that I didn’t have the patience to complete. But like I said, the husband makes sure I stay on track and focused.
What is the one thing that you truly believed in that almost everyone you know disagrees on?
The pricing of my product. I want my products to be affordable to anyone who likes them. And so even at the cost of slimmer profit margins, I’ve ensured that customers get high quality products at affordable rates.
What is that one piece of advice you are glad you did not take when starting out?
I was told that nobody buys stationery anymore and that there are already too many players in the market. I was advised not to invest in this project because it would be money I would never see again.
Resources no bar, if there is one immediate thing that you would change/enhance in your business what would it be?
That would definitely be customization. Unfortunately, right now, customization tends to be expensive and we have to turn down many a customer unless bulk orders are placed.
Born and brought up in Mumbai, Avantika often draws inspiration from this vibrant city. “There is so much here that encourages creativity – be it the auto rickshaws, the vada pav, the gorgeous sea link or the insane traffic” she says. Though her drawings are inspired by Mumbai, Yellow Buffalo products are available across the country through their website. Other than that, the products are available at Tappu Ki Dukaan, Loose Ends and Danai in Mumbai and at Pyjama Party in Pune. So the next time you need original art merchandise, you know where to go!
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